Review: Hear the Wind Sing (The Rat #1) by Haruki Murakami

The first novel written by Haruki Murakami, Hear the Wind Sing follows a Japanese student who spends his summer at home, reminiscing on years past, while keeping his friend, who goes by the name Rat, company.

Personal Take: After reading Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, and After the Quake, I am a huge fan of Murakami. His words (and his translator’s) are so beautifully crafted, and his characters quirky, and always a vehicle of exploring the human nature. His first novel is just the same– not only exploring his character’s life, but the supporting characters as well. Though it was a little aimless, Murakami’s words counted in each chapter. Some chapters also alternated to different formats; one sentences, sketches, even a monologue by a radio host, which was pretty interesting.

It fascinated me that this was his first novel, and how it set the style for his writing. For Murakami fans, I definitely recommend it.

Audience: Adults, as Japanese literature tends veer into the dark side of human nature and introspection.

Rating:

 

Other recommendations: I read Wind-up Bird Chronicles and After the Quake– and I recommend both. I’m still working my way through his other works.

 

Review: Crossfire by Miyuki Miyabe

 

 

Ever since she was a child, Junko knew she had the power to start fires at will. Now as an adult, she has to take the utmost precaution not to accidentally incinerate her surroundings. But by chance, she happens upon a violent kidnapping, and Junko unleashes a trail of burned bodies in the wake of her mission: save a victim, and cleanse the world of evil. Her actions spark the interest of a secret vigilante group, and the Metropolitan Police, who are puzzled over the murders, but as detective Ishizu Chikako investigates, she realizes what’s happening around them is beyond the control of the police department.

Personal Take: I always have mixed reactions when I read Japanese literature. It can range from being too dry to being very well written, and then the stories are not the formula I’m used to. But I have to say that Miyabe’s book was the second I’ve enjoyed in terms of plot and characters, despite my mixed feelings about it. The book alternated between firestarter Junko and detective Chikako, and it is micro-descriptive. There are A LOT of small details, and it did feel like it bogged down the pace. I don’t know how many of it was the writer and how many of it was the translator (I noticed there are some explanations sort of tacked in, I’m guessing that’s for the international readers’ sake).

The good thing about detailed writing though is that it builds up towards the climax. The first half of this book was the build up, the second half had the ball rolling (slowly but still nicely). With characters in Japanese literature, they usually come off as detached. It started off this way, especially with Junko, but with Chikako, who is a mature, older woman and has family, it was a little lighter. As more characters were introduced to both women, the more interaction there was, and I loved that. There was an added complexity, especially with Junko and her powers, and I was dying to discuss it with someone.

As for the conclusion, well, I definitely didn’t see it coming, but it was over in a page, which was kind of…disappointing. But Miyabe did justice to it, and I think she wrote it very well.

The only problem I had is the pacing. It didn’t get fast or urgent towards the end. It was gripping, but.. I don’t know. Maybe I’m influenced by Western thrillers. Still, this was a great read.

Audience: I think this book is great for readers who want to try reading Japanese literature for the first time.

Rating:

threehalfstars

 

Other Recommendations: Interestingly, Miyabe write both thrillers and kids books, but of here thrillers: Shadow Family and The Devil’s Whisperer. Those who enjoyed Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy will definitely enjoy this.

Review: Loop (Ring#) by Koji Suzuki

The world has reached an apocalyptic stage when a new virus with characteristics of cancer eats away at humans, and slowly, at every living organism on Earth. Young and intelligent, Koaru can only wish he can ease his father’s pain from cancer and his mother’s obsessions to cure him. But when there’s more at stake than his parents, Koaru follows a string of supposed coincidences that could lead to the cure. But of course, there’s a price.

Personal Take: The events in this book blew my mind away. This is the most unusual Japanese horror-transitioned-to-sci-fi book I have EVER read (then again, you don’t find these types of books anywhere). Again, we are told the story from the point of view of a different character, and this time Suzuki pulls a twist so casually that really made my head explode. Seriously, I think it is the mother of all book twists. He drops a couple more of those along the way too.

I like Kaoru. Not only was he the youngest of the main characters in this trilogy, but I think he was the only one with a bit of “life” in him. He genuinely cared about the people around him. I think the only problem I had with this book is the pacing and the heavy scientific explanations. For such a short book, it went a bit slow in some of the places. Even through the twists, I didn’t feel like there was a sense of urgency. Also, the ending is pretty open. Realistic, but still left too many questions unanswered.

Other than that, this was a great trilogy to get through. Very different and unusual.

Audience: Adults who have a strong love for the complex sciences.

Rating:

threehalfstars

 

Other recommendations: Read my reviews on Ring and Spiral. He also released a book of short stories, in the point of view of the unfortunate heroines in all three books called Birthday. I think that the  female characters in these books didn’t have much of an active role in the trilogy is a bit sad. Even the female antagonist faded out in the last book. So I’m really looking forward to how Suzuki portrays them here.

Review: Spiral (Ring #2) by Koji Suzuki

After losing his son and seeing his marriage fall apart, Ando has steeled himself to a mundane existence. However, seeing his classmate, Ryuji, on an autopsy table was the last thing he expected to see. Reports of mysterious deaths are cropping up, and Ando is convinced that they’re connected to each other. Following signs and clues set by Ryuji from beyond the grave, Ando is determined to find the source of a virus set by a certain videotape and confirm its extinction. The enemy, however, proves to be more horrifying and formidable than Ando ever imagined.

Personal Take: By far, this is my favorite book in the trilogy. It begins right after the events of the last book, and readers get to see what happened to the old characters. The same mystery is now explored through new sets of eyes, and with scientific explanations (almost). I think it’s great that the writing style is still the same, but with the new characters, everything felt fresh. The suspense was stronger in this book, and the twists were AMAZING. I predicted one part, but just reading it was shocking enough. Again, Koji’s characters are flawed, which makes them more believable and endearing.

It gripping and it screws with your imagination is so many ways, it leaves you wanting more.

Audience: Adults. It’s not as disturbing as the first book, but the content is still for older people.

Rating:

4stars

 

Other recommendations: Check out my review of Ring (the prequel). Also, looking forward to ending this trilogy with Loop.

Review: Ring (Ring #1) by Koji Suzuki

When four, seemingly healthy teenagers die at the same time of heart failure, among them his niece, journalist Asakawa smells a new story brewing. When he follows their lead to an isolated cottage in the mountains, he finds a video with incoherent scenes, and ends with a threat that a week from watching this tape, the viewer will die. Just when the solution to break the curse comes up, the video goes into commercial. Now Asakawa has one week to figure out the charm, and he enlists the help of his high school friend, Ryuji, a professor, and a possible rapist.
Personal Take: This book was freaky. It started out great, but I had to get used to the translation, and style. But when the race against time starts, it just sucks you in. What I love about Japanese literature is the characterization. They’re always flawed, and self-centered, but that only makes them unpredictable. Also, while this book is scary, there’s a bit of science mingled with it, so it’s not far-fetched.
And the suspenseful writing was gripping, at some point I couldn’t put it down.
The ending was a little… surprising. I definitely didn’t see it coming, but at the same time it was a little weird. Suzuki did leave enough unanswered for the next 2 books, (which I will be picking up soon!). Overall, it was an exciting book and perspective into Japanese horror.
Note: I didn’t watch the movie but I hear it had the same ending, which is interesting. I don’t think I’ll ever have the courage to check it out though! XD
Audience: Adults. Some things in this book bordered disturbing (and actually, at times into the disturbing!)
 
Rating:
 threehalfstars

Other recommendations: Koji Suzuki is known for his horror and suspenseful books. The follow up to Ring is Spiral and Loop.

Teaser Tuesday #1

Well, since I’m getting the hand of regulating my blog posts, I’ve decided to start a few of the bookish memes out there. I’ll start with the easy one.

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly meme held by Should Be Reading.

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays go like this:
Grab your current read
Open to a random page
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.
BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS!

My book this week is Ring by Koji Suzuki (the horror movie was based on this!)

 

“Asakawa opened the cabinet and picked up the videotape. He went to insert it into the video deck, but just at that moment, he noticed something that stayed his hand.”

Pg. 177.